Aragma, Greek act of chilling
Argama is Greek word for “act of chilling” – how do I know that? Well, I googled it. Greek slang words, to be exact. It’s always nice to know some words in foreign language, apart from “good morning” (and “have a nice day” in case of Kalimera), “thank you” and “good night”. So, today lot, I am taking you to Kos island for the perfect example of how to exercise Greek act of chill.
Before I answer that question, let me tell you how it all started and why we decided to travel with Corona virus out there (by we, I mean me and my wonderful travel buddy Marta M.) – is it really safe? Yes and no, that really depends. Since March, we are bound to work from home, which might seem like a great opportunity to get more rest. After all, you start work at 9 am sharp (no need to leave house at 8 to get to the office) and finish at 5 pm, which means that at 5:01 you are home with tons of time to use. But it’s too beautiful to be true, believe me. Scenery is the same, and in my case (my apartment is still under construction), I work next to my bed and sleep next to my desk.
This is frustrating. Desire to leave town, country and change the surroundings is completely natural. I knew for sure, that I would not get the proper rest simply staying at home, going to the gym or to the pool. I would still be stuck at home.
So yes, Marta and I decided to give it a shot and when we met up for anniversary screening of Empire Strikes Back, we bought tickets for Kos. We decided not to use available offers from travel agencies – this would mean that we would be stuck in one place for 7 days. Besides, organizing the trip ourselves was yet another adventure and great training before 2021.
Why Greece? Well, why not? 😉 It’s a beautiful country! Delicious food and wine, sights that will take your breath away and friendly people! This was first trip to Greece and I only heard good things. Kos sounded like less popular island, so decision was easy.
Tickets there and back + accommodation in Kefaols, (technically it was village next to Kefalos – Kampos) one night in Kos town costed around 1100 PLN for a person. I will post a trip guide with all expenses in third part of this Greek Report for you lot, to have an overview and maybe inspiration for a travel?
TRAVELING IN TIMES OF COVID – what we should remember?
MASKS! That’s first and most important thing. And look, I know it’s hard especially in summer, I freaking get it. But science speak for itself. Both Marta and I agreed, that no matter what we must be careful and obey all rules. One of them was filling out Passenger Locator Form – mandatory document for all people traveling to Greece. I don’t think there is a point in explaining why and when to fill it, because everything could change with pandemic.
When it comes to airport here in Wroclaw, there is a thermo-camera by the entrance and staff is monitoring what comes up in the image. Masks are mandatory at all times, as they should be. Before we took off, very excited, we stopped for a quick snack and a coffee. Who would’ve thought that this coffee will be… LAST GOOD ONE in a week!!!
Airport security is equipped with masks and gloves, so that was a comforting sight to see. We chose flying with LOT Polish Airlines and throughout the entire flight, we had to have our masks on – with exceptions for having a sip of water and bite of a snack.
How does it look like in Greece? At the airport they divided us into two queues and checked the PLFs. Some people were directed for testing area – short medical interview and test. Results should come back within 24 hours and person who got tested should self-quarantine for that time.
A lot of store owners will ask you to leave if you don’t have your mask on. For 5 days we were living in Kefalos – very quiet part of the island. We always had our masks with us, in case of bigger crowds, but we only needed them in local store.
When using public transportation, mask is a must and drivers along with ticket sellers are strict about it. Yay, Greece! Way to go! 😊 Every waiter and waitress had mask or face shields (though these were pretty weird), tables were practically dripping wet from disinfecting.
In Kos town it looked a bit different – it is the biggest city in the island, typical tourist beacon. Which in no case is a bad thing, but it seemed very crowded for us. Moving around old town and little shops required having mask on all the time and since we were surrounded by buildings and archeological sites, air was dry and breathing was very difficult. Glad we only spent one night there.
There was one, absolutely horrifying thing, we witnessed our last day. Flight back home and what happened in the airport was a disaster. Security was doing the fastest check ever – when going through the metal detector TWICE, the alarm was going off for me, but they waved it anyway. Hey, I get it – COVID is our main concern right now, but come on. There are plenty other threats still possible. Marta didn’t even have to take out liquids from her bag – also weird. And the crowd, the unbelievable crowd, with no distance kept whatsoever… Something went wrong.
PREPARATION – DAY 0
Enough of the generalities – I will circle back to some things as we carry on. Let me tell you about all the stuff we had to take care of before leaving: health insurance, flights, accommodation, car rental, sun protection… Tiny thigs you might think, but very important.
European Health Insurance Card
When it comes to health insurance, I am always buying extra one with private insurance company – you know, better to be safe than sorry. When traveling across Europe, there is an absolute must: European Health Insurance Card – free for everyone who is insured by or covered by a statutory social security scheme of the EEA countries, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. I had some troubles with getting my card (this is actually funny story, but maybe some other time?), but it does not matter. If you think of traveling across Europe, make sure you have this card on you – you will receive medical treatment at reduced cost (or for free, depends).
Accommodation in Kos
We booked 5 nights in IONIKOS HOTEL in Kefalos. For two people with breakfast we paid around 303 Euro which was ideal! One night in Kos town, we chose Philippion City Hotel, for which we paid 55 Euro (also with breakfast).
Breakfast included in price is a must for me!!! Sure, it’s so nice to eat a fancy breakfast in a tiny, cozy café but… We wanted to drive around the island as much as possible. Enjoying breakfast for 2 hours was not an option + it is really comfortable to grab a bite in the morning to get started. In 95% of cases, everyone will find something for themselves.
For tickets there and back, with LOT Polish Airlines, we paid around 77 Euro for one person – which is a great deal! One piece of luggage is included; though the trick is to pack the suitcase up to 8 kilos! And believe me, even with summer clothes only (okay, polish-mother mentality kicked in and we took hoodies), it’s a hard task.
Pro tip: Don’t ever buy tickets through official airlines’ websites – they tend to increase prizes. Use legit brokers and sites to look for best prices.
Heck yes, this one deserves its own section. SO MANY PEOPLE DON’T EVEN CARE ABOUT SUN PROTECTION it’s scary!!! Even my parents – and let me tell you, for almost 18 years, I spent every summer vacation at the seaside visiting my grandparents. My mum was raised there! And last year, my parents drove to Jurata for 3 weeks and got sunburns at day 1.
It was so stupid of them! A. they had to stay away from sun for the next 4 days, B. they got some serious burns, C. being reckless like that can lead to diseases like skin cancer.
For the entire trip, Marta used cream with 50 SPF (sun protection factor), and she still got the brown! 😉 I used 3 different sunscreens: 25 SPF for my body (it takes a lot of time for me to get tan), 30 SPF for my face and 50 SPF for tattoos.
I have 2 tattoos (technically 4) and one (3) is relatively fresh, therefore it was critical for me to protect it in the most effective way. Sun is like a laser to them, so if you love your ink, please make sure that you use proper protection. And that it is waterproof!!!
Okay. We kind of screwed up here. Well, okay that’s a bit too much, but it was a risky move, to book a car for 3 days, 40 minutes before departing for Kos. To our defense – we had no idea that it will be so hard to book one!
Once again, we did not use official car rental sites – prices were outrageous! And our dilemma was: do we need car for our entire stay, or just few days? We decided, that 3 days will be enough. 3 and a half actually – we picked up our Little One (that’s how Marta started calling it) on Sunday evening and returned it on Wednesday.
Now, when it comes to renting ANY car ANYWHERE keep this in mind: thorough inspection is a key!!! Sure, we got insurance, but since we used a broker – car rental agency, not the actual dealer, they blocked 600 Euro as a “insurance in case something happens with the car”. Long story short – if we would return a car with even one scratch, they would take the money and we would have to take it up to the car dealer. So yes – we checked the car from top to bottom, noting every additional scratch that was not in the “current damage protocol” we received.
DRIVING TOWARDS THE SUNSET – DAY ONE
Our flight from Wroclaw was somewhere around 3:30 pm – that’s a pleasant time to take off. There is one-hour difference between Poland and Greece, so my 3:30 pm is 4:30 there. Flying to Kos International Airport takes about 2-2.5 hours. And even though Marta and I spent A LOT of time together before we left, we could not shut up. We just kept talking, which calmed my anxiety. Oh right – I forgot to mention that I HATE FLYING. Sometimes I am wondering if this fear is irrational, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense to me. But this one was not that bad, so…
We were welcomed by pleasant wave of heat – different kind that the one we are having now in Wroclaw. Bus took us to the airport and we went directly to the car pickup office, masks on of course. Lady behind the counter was super friendly – she explained everything about car, the insurance policy and gave us map of the island, where she marked all the best beaches (spots for kitesurfing or getting great tan), restaurants (with best fishes, seafood and drinks) and viewpoints for amazing sunsets. Then we had to inspect the car – Little One, a.k.a. Good Boy, a.k.a. Peugeot 108. 15 minutes later, we were on our way to Kefalos.
Views from the windows were mesmerizing – green bushes and trees with crashing contrasts to deserts, rough dirt and rocky mountains, all bathed in dying, red sunlight. “It’s golden hour” I said and my artistic brain started taking mental pictures. Oh, we are SO taking pictures at the sunset one night! Before it gets dark, we reach our hotel. Host and his son (we think) are waiting for us. After few courtesies we go up to our room and the view is absolute killer – we got the beach. And our pool and restaurant, but it didn’t matter in that moment (it did however later, because we were forced to listen to ridiculous Greek music) – calm Aegean Sea softly washing the shore, city lights of Kefalos to our right. On the left, small island with Greek church, lit with soft lamps, and in front of us – darkness so deep that we could see all the stars. Silence. Serenity. Peace… My racing mind was in awe. Could this really be the place, where the never-stopping train of thoughts will hit the brakes?
We left our suitcases in the room, opened the balcony door for slightly chilled air to fill our room (air conditioning was 6 Euro per night) and left to grab a late dinner. At first, we stopped in Tea 4 Two –British café we actually hoped for to have a good snack, but the owner told us that their kitchen is closed. He told us about different spot, but funnily enough neither of us caught the name, so we just kept walking. Just few cars passed us by, the city was quiet. After few minutes, we reached Hippocrates Restaurant, that advertises itself as the best pizza in Kefalos. Okay then – challenge accepted! We ordered Tony Montana for both of us, and two glasses of home-made, dry white wine. First thing we noticed was the amount of wine – it was so much more we usually get in Polish restaurants!!!
And – each day we ate there, we got more wine for the same price. I guess Greeks do not tolerate waste of space in a glass 😉. Pizza was really good and that comes from a person, who rarely eats pizza (this is my least favorite fast food). Wine was delicious! Being tired and a bit happy, we left (promising to come back) and went to the beach. This had to happen – night talks at the beach, under the stars…
Sun beds were empty and so tempting to sit at them. We chose the one closest to the path back to the hotel, but also very close to the water. Wind was blowing, but it was so pleasurably warm, it didn’t bother us. I had to try out the water – at night it was much colder, but still so nice… From time to time I had to dip my hand in the sand, mingle around all-sized rocks to feel that I am really here, there, now. Time slowed down and one minute felt like an hour, which in this particular case was a blessing. Tired but happy, we climbed back to out room, changed clothes for PJs and used sheets for night covers. Decision to leave balcony door open was not even up for discussion. After all, there is no better view in the morning than dying night, slowly letting morning light take over…
TO BE CONTINUED! Sorry Lot, I could not help myself but to leave you incentive, merely describing first few hours of our Greek adventure. More to come soon, that’s a promise! Also, from exciting news, I decided to expand NOLAN PACK with reviews of anniversary screening of Inception and opening night of Tenet.